As we move into the month of July, our resident geese have regrown their flight feathers after going through a summer molt during the last weeks of June and first weeks of July. The young of the year are getting their adult plumage, growing their first flight feathers, and getting ready for mom and dad to teach them how to fly. It’s time for us to start figuring out what areas the non-breeding adult birds have grouped up in during the summer, and what areas have produced a bumper crop of young, dumb goslings. Start checking your farm ponds, cruising your lakes and rivers by boat, and checking the nearby parks and golf courses. Don’t start planning your hunt just yet though, as they still have plenty of time to move before the season arrives.
Family units, consisting of parents and goslings, will move around a lot during the month of August. It seems that mom and dad want to show the kids the area, teach them the landmarks, and show them a few other areas to move to should the happy nesting grounds become unsafe. Frequently the birds from smaller bodies of water move to larger bodies of water and loosely “flock up” with other family groups. This time of year the geese are predominantly grazers, and will be feeding on aquatic plants and pastures or yards near water. The molting groups of non-nesting adults are less likely to make large moves away from their safe water bodies of summer, but may start moving around more to nearby feeding locations that they couldn’t get to while they couldn’t fly.
As crops begin to be harvested in late August and early September, some geese will make a major shift from grassy areas to the newly cut corn silage fields for feeding. Watch these areas, as they may become great for a goose hunt, but be aware of whether the field you’re watching is gonna be hunted by the opening day dove crowd. That volume of people and shooting can send the geese packing before you get out there if you don’t hunt the field before they do. Other geese will still be in their summer routine and will still be in the grassy areas. I have had some great September goose hunts in hay and cow pastures, especially with a farm pond in them. And then there is the Virginia favorite of so many hunters, floating the rivers and lakes in a boat, either setting up in a fixed stationary blind, or hunting from a blind built on the boat (check regulations for applicable blind laws in the county you’re hunting if hunting on public water).
Whatever terrain or habitat you find the geese using, that’s where you need to be hunting!!! In the world of waterfowl hunting, there’s a term used to describe the spot that the birds want to be naturally (without some disturbance, that’s where they’ll be), and that spot is called THE X. You want to hunt the X!! If you can get permission to hunt the X, you should have a good hunt. If you can’t, get as close to it as you can, preferrably under the flight path they take to get there, and get in similar habitat to what they’re using if you can. Being in the right spot this time of year matters more than good decoys or good calling, as the birds are most likely going where they were yesterday. These local birds know the terrain and they know each other, so don’t go hunt a location they don’t use.